“Bringing Literature Back Into The Philosophy Of Literature”
20 April 2016; 1600-18:00
Senate House – Room 243
Judging from the amount of recent publications, in particular that of readers, textbooks, handbooks, and companions, it seems save to say that the philosophy of literature is about to become a self-standing philosophical discipline. Yet, the way the debate is structured unveils that this discipline – at least in its contemporary, analytic form – is still deeply rooted in other philosophical disciplines, as problems that are relevant to the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, metaphysics, or epistemology are often at the centre of attention. In consequence, we often find a single-sided selection of literary texts discussed and a focus on fiction rather than on literature. In my paper I will begin with the commonplace that the terms “fiction” and “literature” are not synonyms, nor are they co-referential. I will suggest that even when we talk about works of fictional, narrative literature the two terms refer to very different aspects of the respective works. My aim is to show that paying more attention to the poetic function of literary language would open us to novel solutions to some of the central discussions in the philosophy of literature. I will illustrate this point by showing how this move could enlighten the debate concerning the cognitive value of literature, which in its actual form often suffers from taking a specific model of language (the “referential picture”) and of cognitive progress for granted.